Future chefs battle in Eden Hall Upper Elementary contest

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Jessica Harby, 10, of Richland, loves cookbooks.

“At night, we read them and look at recipes,” said Lisa Harby, Jessica's mother. “When she goes to the library at school, her book of choice is a cookbook.”

That passion for food preparation paid off last week when Jessica won the annual Future Chefs contest, sponsored by Sodexo, at Eden Hall Upper Elementary School in Richland.

Jessica's Chicken Craisin Salad Roll-Ups bested salads created by six students at the school.

“She's always cooking or baking something,” older brother, Chris Harby, said about his sister.

Jessica's winning recipe calls for diced chicken, onion and celery, dried cranberries, shredded cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, lettuce and tortillas.

“It's a family recipe,” said Jessica, a soft-spoken fourth-grader, and the contest's youngest participant.

Lisa Harby said her daughter actually fine-tuned the ingredients.

“She would say, ‘it needs more of this,'” said Jessica's mother. “It was something we created together.”

Contestants prepared and plated their entries, with help from Sodexo employees, on March 14 in the cafeteria kitchen at Eden Hall.

The young chefs then presented their salads, with sample servings, for three judges to taste.

“These students have worked very hard. It's amazing what they can do in the kitchen,” said dietitian Cherry Cerminara Sodexo, general manager of food service in Pine-Richland School District.

Sixth-grader Sara Coleman used vanilla yogurt, granola and walnuts to prepare her Pineapple Boat Salad.

Fifth-grader Levi Wentz named his Dream Big Honduras Salad — topped with black olive vinaigrette — after his parents' Central American mission project.

Sixth-grader Kenzie Wolfe cut up a whole pineapple to create her Pineapple Chicken Salad.

Sixth-grader Brianna Caputi topped her Tossed Mango and Pineapple Salad with lime vinaigrette and coconut.

Sixth-grader Elaina Harris created Elaina's Spinach Salad with blueberries, kiwi fruit, strawberries, sunflower seeds and diced chicken.

“It's easy to make and it's kid-friendly,” said Elaina, 12, of Pine. “It's really fruity. It's healthy, too.”

Three judges evaluated the entries on originality, healthy attributes, ease of preparation, kid appeal, plate presentation and use of featured ingredients.

“They were all good. They were all presented well,” said Jeremy Timko, director of food service for Beaver Area School District, one of the judges.

Don Bryant, a freshman at Pine-Richland High School and winner of 2012 Future Chefs competition at Eden Hall Upper Elementary School, also judged this year's contest.

“You all impressed me very much,” he told this year's contestants. “Keep cooking.”

Contest judge Zackary Mazur, dean of students at Eden Hall Upper Elementary School, found it difficult to pick a winner among all the salads. “They were all very good,” he said.

As winner of the Future Chefs contest, Jessica Harby will advance to regional competition in the third annual Future Chefs National Challenge.

As the local winner, Jessica took home a laundry basket packed with cooking utensils.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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